The Court’s Facade: Room #317

Cynthia Mewborn

How many homeless and impoverished individuals will be forced to live in appalling and demoralizing conditions, risking death, before the judiciary system will protect them? When I received housing assistance from The D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) more than a year ago, I could have never imagined that I would eventually bring these same individuals to court for crimes against the homeless and poor.

The apartment I received seems nice on the surface. However, for over twenty months I’ve had to live with black soot seeping from the ventilation system and discolored and smelly water which has even corroded the entire sink. The prior and current property managers have refused to fix these disgraceful conditions. How could DHS recommend such a thing?

I sought help from city officials, including the Office of the Attorney General. After no one came through for me, I filed a lawsuit myself. I don’t want to get rich, I just want my apartment fixed.

An inspector was appointed by the court. But when they visited my building, I was told “no matter what you show me, this building is passing inspection.”

I recently had a private contractor give me a quote on how much it would cost in clean the ventilation system. But the following week the company said they would not return to my building until a chemical analysis of the black soot in my unit is completed. They feared contaminating their equipment or possibly spreading something beyond my unit.

Cynthia Mewborn
Soot on the hand of an Air Quality Control technician after a single swipe over the surface of the tub in my apartment. The technician had visited the unit to assess a quote to clean the ventilation system. | Photo by Cynthia Mewborn

I tried explaining this during my hearing, but when I said that I would have to pay for the chemical analysis the Judge replied “good, you should pay for it” and dismissed the case.

How is that justice? How often are the impoverished denied equal and fair judicial representation in resolving deplorable housing conditions? These officials aren’t doing their jobs.

The entire matter has been ignored, denied, rejected and perpetuated by the same people who are supposed to bring justice for those who do not receive it from management. It’s pretty hard to fathom that court officials and other District government workers could be permitting housing conditions that could lead to sickness or even worse – death. But I fear for my life.  I don’t believe the visionary who designed these programs nor the taxpayers who fund them ever envisioned inhumane housing.

I need a lawyer who can assist me in my case and uphold the right for people who have experienced homelessness to heal and recover in decent affordable housing.

Issues |Civil Rights|Housing

Region |Washington DC

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